Fast Driving Minister

photo: resto bd arago

A bistro in the Boulevard Arago still wearing
its Christmas decor.

'Find' of the Week

Paris:- Sunday, 21. January 2001:- Ex-rail worker, member of France's Communist Party and current Minister of Transport, Jean-Claude Gayssot, took the control wheel of a new TGV train last week, and steered it up to 350 kph between Valence and Marseille.

This was shown on TV-news, with the train driver's compartment full of TV cameras, PR men and the President of the SNCF, Louis Gallois looking on - while the minister laughed and talked to everybody and only glanced occasionally at the ribbon of tracks and their rapidly approaching vanishing point.

This new double-decker model TGV, will reduce the present Paris-Marseille time of four hours and 20 minutes down to three hours. It will carry 500 passengers instead of a regular TGV's 300. Planned are 17 round trips daily.

With this kind of speed and passenger capacity, the new TGV Méditerranée will compete directly with airline connections - if the SNCF can figure out a competitive tariff structure. This won't be announced until tickets go on sale in April.

The first trains are to go in service on 10. June, but the complete service won't be operating until early in 2002.

Spring's New Car Crop

While it is still winter, automobile manufacturers are bringing out their new models now - to hint to possible customers that they should ease up on the winter sales and begin saving up for a new car for their summer vacations.

Renault has opened its box first, to show us its Laguna II - which is a successor to its plain old Laguna. This is Renault'sphoto: jardin marco polo middle-class car, and Le Parisien says it rides like a Peugeot 607 or a BMW 525 - both of which are in superior classes.

The Marco Polo part of the Observatoire section of the Jardin du Luxembourg.

But it is the new car's two trick features that lead the paper's report. The first is a 'start-by-card' feature, that eliminates the ignition key. You put the card in a slot and then push a starter button - like on a '36 Ford, but without the card.

This card also has a memory, and it can get the car's virtual-voice system to tell you to change the oil - at a Renault service centre, of course.

And for the modest supplementary sum of only 3500 francs, the card can also be programmed to tell the car to unlock its doors as you approach it, and readjust everything readjustable back to the driver's choices, including the radio.

The new car's other 'get attention' feature is a system of detectors, designed to tell the driver if any of the tires are underinflated or flat.

On the car tested, according to Le Parisien, the visual display for this was accompanied by a verbal one that started its chat as soon as the seatbelt was locked, and wouldn't stop until getting some air.

'Find' of the Week

On Monday, 8. January, an unemployed gent of 22 years was strolling along near the Porte d'Orléans when he spied a white business-size envelope lying on the sidewalk.

For some unknown reason he decided to pick it up and when he looked inside it he found a cheque for 12 million francs. Unluckily, it was not made out in his name.

The cheque was issued in late December and sent by courier to a bank in Paris. How it managed to survive at least 10 days on a Paris street is a mystery.

The company concerned was just about as unconcerned. Upon learning of the 'find,' they stopped the cheque - apparently with no intention of offering any 'finder's fee.'

But since the company does some secret 'black-box' stuff for France's Ministry of Defense, its 'unconcern' is liable to be cause for some concern by the state's internal security spooks.

Paris - Capitale de la Mode

It is new threads time in Paris again and something strange is going on.

Instead of all the oohing and aahing that normallyphoto: rue broca, paris 5 accompanies the nightly TV-reports about the runway shows - and the runway shows themselves - the reports all seem to concentrate on the message that 'high fashion' is merely advertising.

Winter sun filtering into the Rue Broca in the 5th arrondissement.

One radio report said there were only a couple of customers in the entire world for some of the creations, which can cost between a half million to over a million francs.

Several of the top creators have also been on TV saying that their collections are made mainly for the free publicity they generate for the brand-name - of their perfume.

Such candor in public is unusual. It is like an apology in advance for the less than stunning new creations. However, since these are not shown in any significant detail on the evening news, it is impossible to have any opinion about them.

Givenchy canceled its semi-public runway show to be held at Bercy, with the excuse that only 20 of its 50 new models to be shown were complete. Instead, the fashion house will run its shows in its boutique, for its 150 regular clients.

Catherine Deneuve was shown being excited after Jean-Paul Gaultier's showing, but I think she may be a big fan of his because she is never as excited in her movies.

If I remember correctly, I think Gaultier played down his collection in favor of his perfume - while Catherine Deneuve thought a lot of the collection.

It featured a lot of slashes in inhabitual places, looking a bit like the clothing was about to deconstruct - but not looking like a joke either. Gaultier has done jokes before, but they always look like well-made ones.

The Electro Bus

With a little cynicism, the battery-powered buses, tested last September in Paris, might be called the 'election' bus. The city bought four of them and two speedy-chargers for the test.

While passengers applauded their silence and comfort, the Paris Transports conglomo - the STP - said it had to study their economic impact and it won't make a decision about putting them into regular service until April, which is after the municipal elections.

The STP as the power to refuse to accept the Orange Card as a transport ticket for the buses. Naturally this has annoyed the Hôtel de Ville, partly because it supports the RATP with an annual 1.5 million-franc subsidy.

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